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What makes Esalen relaxation massage so relaxing?

Relaxation effect of Esalen relaxation massage


Some people wonder what makes Esalen relaxation massage more relaxing than other forms of massage. My Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York clients are often in such a deep state of relaxation that it is hard for them to turn over at the midway point! One friend’s wife said he looked years younger when he came home after the massage. This was due to the tensions and cares of life dropping away during the time spent in a non-verbal state of focusing on pleasurable physical sensations. A lot of our wrinkles come from unintentionally holding our face in particular tension patterns. With deep relaxation, we let go of that holding for a while.

Causes of Relaxation

I think there are a few different reasons why Esalen relaxation massage is so relaxing:
  • It is nice to spend a few hours receiving pleasurable massage. Pretty basic! We are built to enjoy touch, perhaps as an evolutionary mechanism to promote bonding between humans. Many of us don’t receive enough touch in our busy modern lives. When the body starts to receive the touch it craves, it begins to relax immediately.
  • Just setting aside the time away from the non-stop demands of your life can allow an immediate shift into relaxation. Have you ever had the experience of laying down on a massage table, even for physio or other medical massage, and felt like you were sinking into the table? Knowing that you have a certain amount of time with no demands, no phone calls, texts, and emails, gives the body the message that it is okay to let go.
  • Esalen relaxation massage is designed to invite and allow a body to relax, through a gentle tuning in between the recipient’s body and the practitioner’s body. The practitioner begins with rocking and gentle pressure to let the recipient’s body know it is safe to relax and trust the practitioner.
  • The integrating effect of the massage that comes from receiving conscious touch repeatedly from head to toe, front and back, as well as detailed massage on the limbs, back, upper chest, neck, head, and face makes the whole body feel like it belongs.
  • The massage practitioner’s state of presence invites a similar heightened sense of presence in the receiver’s body. This presence is both enlivening and relaxing.
  • The massage practitioner spends time on the specific areas where each unique client experiences tension, whether it’s the neck, shoulders, or some other area of the body. Each Esalen relaxation massage is attuned and responsive to the needs of the individual client, bringing optimum relaxation for that person.
  • The massage studio at Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York is an environment that brings a soothing sense of relaxation from the moment you walk into the room, with soft lighting, quiet music, warm colors, and a relaxing vibe. An urban oasis in the heart of Greenwich Village, Manhattan!

The joint and several benefits of Esalen relaxation massage

Jogging on the Hudson - Blog - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York


(A little pun for our lawyer friends.) The benefits of massage are well-documented, and are an important aspect of Esalen® relaxation massage. The benefits are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Physical and Emotional Benefits

These physical and emotional benefits are commonly experienced from receiving Esalen relaxation massage:
  • reduced tension in your muscles
  • reduced or eliminated pain, including low back pain and headaches
  • improved joint mobility
  • improved circulation (helping with numbness and pins-and-needles)
  • improved lymphatic drainage and immune system functioning
  • reduced depression and anxiety
  • improved mood and outlook
  • increased body awareness (somatic education)
Each of my clients have experienced multiple benefits from this list after a single session. Some people continue to experience the uplifted mood caused by reduced tension and endorphin release for several days after the massage. The endorphins released during massage are natural pain and stress fighters.

Spiritual Benefits

Esalen relaxation massage brings the physical and emotional benefits mentioned above, and it also has a more mysterious benefit that is hard to describe. My clients often have trouble putting this benefit into words, but I would call it a spiritual benefit. I believe the Esalen relaxation massage takes people to an extraordinary state that they haven’t ever experienced before. This is due in part because most people have never experienced over two hours of continuous touch by someone who is touching them with presence, connection, and awareness. It is truly a unique and wonderful experience, which can open up doorways to new aspects of our being that we may not be in touch with during the busyness of our daily lives.

Medical Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

The type of relaxation massage I practice at my Manhattan studio is not medical massage, but the massage offers relaxation, joint mobilization, and improved energetic flow. These aspects of the massage have significant benefits for my clients’ health and well-being, and clients have reported feeling more energy, increased ease of movement in their bodies, awakening of sexual energy, and other distinct physical changes that are clearly linked to the massage.

Improved brain power from Esalen relaxation massage

Think coffee - Blog - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York


As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the benefits of an Esalen relaxation massage is that it brings mental clarity. This occurs through spending time in a deep state of relaxation that is nonverbal and can also be nonconceptual. Upon re-emerging to a more normal state of awareness, your usual mental pathways have had a break and there is an opportunity for new pathways and connections to form. This can bring new solutions to a problem you’ve been working on, just like sleeping on it can do. John Steinbeck said, “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”  Taking a break from thinking about the problem allows for a fresh perspective to arise.

Impact of Stress Hormones on Thinking

Studies have also shown that when we are in a more relaxed state, our thinking is more effective. One reason for this is because of the impact stress hormones such as cortisol have on our neural networks, impacting memory and learning, and channeling energy to the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response.

Activities that Improve Mental Functioning

According to Psychology Today author Christopher Bergland, these activities improve mental functioning:

Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function

  1. Physical activity
  2. Openness to experience
  3. Curiosity and creativity
  4. Social connections
  5. Mindfulness meditation
  6. Brain-training games
  7. Getting enough sleep
  8. Reducing chronic stress
Esalen relaxation massage reduces stress (habit #8), and if you fall asleep on the table, you also get to work on habit #7! I think my clients also bring an openness to experience (habit #2) and curiousity (habit #3) when they come for a massage. The deep nonverbal connection that we experience helps build habit #4 as well. And the focus on physical sensation quiets the mind in a way that is supportive of mindfulness meditation (habit #5).

Reflect on Your Own Direct Experience

But don’t just take my word for it. Think about your own experience. Is your work more productive on a Monday, after a weekend of relaxation or at least a break from work activity? Does your mind slow down by Friday? To really put this to the test, try an Esalen relaxation massage at my Manhattan studio and find out from your own direct experience!

The experience and philosophy of Esalen relaxation massage

Esalen silver moon - Blog - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New YorkEsalen photo by Hamilton Pereira


Esalen® relaxation massage goes beyond the physical, and can nourish the receiver on more subtle levels as well. But we begin with the physical, and Esalen relaxation massage is well-known for its long flowing strokes over the whole body, helping release the stresses of everyday life, leaving the receiver feeling whole, integrated and deeply relaxed, in a natural state of well-being. As a Manhattan-based Esalen relaxation massage practitioner, I am dedicated to connecting deeply with each client and can usually accommodate specific requests and preferences within the Esalen relaxation massage modality.

The Wish, The Experience

At the heart of all relaxation massage sessions is a sense of empowering each individual to regain a sense of harmony, reverence, and balance, and to awaken inner resources for healing. It is not unusual for me to hear, “That was the most amazing massage I’ve ever received.”

Making It Right for You

I adapted the above description of the philosophy and experience of Esalen relaxation massage from the Esalen website. I will similarly adapt the Esalen relaxation massage to the unique needs of each client who enters my Manhattan studio.

How the ocean impacted the development of Esalen relaxation massage

Surging ocean - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York


How the Pacific Ocean came to the East Coast… Esalen relaxation massage is truly a timeless massage, but it grew out of a particular time and place. The time is the past 40 or 50 years (the Esalen Institute began in 1962, with Esalen relaxation massage developing and evolving there over time), and the place is a sacred land of healing waters on the Big Sur coast of the Pacific Ocean. Much has been written about how this unique form of relaxation massage has been impacted by the ocean. What does it mean to say that the ocean is woven into Esalen relaxation massage?

Our Genetic History

As a species, we have a deep genetic history that connects us to the ocean. Our ancestral genes include genetic material from the earliest life forms that developed in the ocean. Our bodies are 50 – 65% water, and it is salty water. Tasting the sweat on your skin will quickly show you that. The womb is also a birthing place that connects us with our ocean heritage. These are some of the ways that we are connected to the ocean, and when we hear the ceaseless sound of the ocean waves, it creates a feeling of home, soothing, and safety.

Awakening the Tides Within Us

Esalen relaxation massage wakens the flow and tug of the ocean in our bodies. The flowing movement of the long strokes up and down the body awaken the fluid tides within us. The corresponding movement of our breath is like the wind that stirs and enters the surface of the waves—inside us our breath penetrates into the blood stream, bringing oxygen to every part of our body, just as the ocean is a source of oxygen for the earth. The flowing and rocking movement of Esalen relaxation massage is soothing like floating on gentle waves, being moved a little back and forth with the currents, feeling tingled and delighted by the frothing bubbles on the surface.

The Depth and Stillness of the Ocean

There is a connection with the depth and stillness of the ocean, as well as the movement and ceaselessly changing forms. This why I have chosen to use a lot of ocean photography on this website. I think that the visual imagery of the ocean water best depicts and stimulates the feeling of an Esalen relaxation massage. Of course, Manhattan is also surrounded by the ocean, so that energy infuses the island, and you will feel it during your massage with me.